Making end-of-life arrangements is a hard thing to do. We would rather not think about our death or the death of a loved one. However, not planning ahead can make a hard, emotional time unnecessarily stressful and expensive.
When making arrangements for yourself or a loved one, arm yourself with the following questions when interviewing a funeral director:
1. Why should I hire you?
There are only a few states that require one to hire a funeral director, so it is of up most importance that the person one hires to handle one of the most delicate parts of your life is a person one feels comfortable with and trusts.
Find out how much experience this person has acting as a director and what type of staff this person has supporting him or her. Ask if the staff receives mandatory on-going training to ensure professional development.
A good funeral director should be an honest person whose business interest is only to make a fair return on their business expenses. All directors must comply with Federal Trade Commission regulations and state board rules.
2. What is the cost?
Funeral directors must provide the consumer with service prices over the phone and be able to provide the same in writing before any goods are shown. All costs associated with any services must be explained: no hidden fees allowed. Before making any payments, see that all costs and services are in writing and that one has a good understanding of these costs. One always has the right to cancel the contract made and receive a refund within 10 days of signing. Find out what costs may change and which are fixed. Can the contract be changed? What will happen if the funeral home is sold or goes out of business and the funeral has been prepaid?
One is always allowed to purchase a casket or alternative container outside of the funeral home and should never be charged an extra fee for this. Directors must go over all the options for disposition: cremation, embalming, direct burial, etc.
3. What are my disposition alternatives?
A funeral director must always disclose all of the alternatives available.
Here is a list of alternatives that may be available:
- Earth burial: One of the most popular forms of interment. This requires a cemetery plot and usually includes additional costs such as fees for opening and closing the grave.
- Aboveground Burial: This type of entombment requires purchasing a crypt within a mausoleum designed specifically for that purpose.
- Cremation: If this is one’s preferred choice, an urn may be placed in a columbarium. An urn could also be buried in a cemetery. If cremation is chosen, services such as visitation, the viewing of the body, a memorial service, and funeral service can still be conducted.
- Anatomical Gifts: Medical advancements have made it possible for organs and tissues to be donated without interfering with the preparation of the body for the funeral services. A funeral director should be able to guide one through this process.
4. What services do you provide?
The main purpose of a funeral director is to help one’s life be easier when a loved one has lost theirs. They can offer consolation and act as listeners, crisis managers, and tribute planners. A funeral director can complete any necessary paperwork and make contact with physicians, florists, newspapers, and any other vendors necessary.
When there is a death, many items will require attention all at once. Items a funeral director would multi-task could include taking custody and care of the body, attaining any licenses and death certificates, making contact with family, friends, solicitors and coordinating the details of a funeral service or memorial services with clergy members.
A funeral director may also refer one to local support groups and recommend sources of professional help.
5. Is financial assistance available?
A funeral director can assist with finding options within a person’s budget, listing payment plans available, and listing financial assistance options that can be used. Local funeral and memorial organizations can help point one to a reputable funeral home and may be even able to negotiate discount rates for those in need.
A funeral director should be a person who can provide one with support during a great time of need by acting as an experienced source for support and guidance. No family should have to face the loss of a loved one uninformed and unprepared.
~ Flora Richards-Gustafson, 2009
“Funerals: A Consumer Guide.” Federal Trade Commission. June 2000. 15 February 2009.